Empire Rye Whiskey Rises As New Whiskey Style In New York

Posted by Ilya Dorfman on

Kentucky is known for bourbon. Tennessee has its "sour mash" whiskey. And Scotland, of course, lays claim to Scotch.

Can New York state develop its signature distilled spirit?

A group of New York distilleries thinks they've found it: This month, they're starting to roll out a whiskey called Empire Rye.

It's not one specific version: Each distillery - including five located in Upstate New York - is producing a limited edition variation of rye whiskey that adheres to a set of standards but allows some creativity.

"We want a style that is uniquely New York," said Jason Barrett, owner and head distiller at Rochester's Black Button Distilling Co. "We chose rye because it has a historical connection to New York, and it grows well here. And although rye is getting pretty popular overall, we want to put a stamp on it that says, 'This is New York rye whiskey.' "

At Finger Lakes Distilling Co. in Burdett, just north of Watkins Glen, owner and president Brian McKenzie says this effort, while starting on a small-scale, could lead to something much more significant.

"It would be great to have this recognized as a style, not only in New York but nationally and even overseas," McKenzie said. "Of course we have a lot of work to do to make that happen. But if we can get even a fraction of the recognition and success of Kentucky bourbon, that would be something."

The initiative comes as New York's distilling industry is growing and maturing. The state now has more than 100 distilleries (up from 25 in 2011), most of them classified as "farm distilleries." Farm distillers must source at least 75 percent of their ingredients from New York.

Empire Rye goes even further: The standards set by the group calling itself the Empire Rye Whiskey Association include a minimum 75 percent New York-grown rye.

The standards also call for a minimum two years aging in new charred American oak barrel and aging at a relatively low alcohol level (115 proof in the barrel.)

"When you age at a lower proof, you get fewer of the harsh tannins and a more well-balanced product," Barrett said. "It highlights the rye flavor."

Enhancing the rye flavor is part of the Empire Rye signature.

To be labeled a rye whiskey in the United States, a whiskey must contain at least 51 percent rye (the rest can be other grains, like corn, wheat or malted barley). Bourbon, by contrast, must be at least 51 percent corn, with different grain making up the difference.

"So in bigger market brands, you get a lot of 51-49 ryes, and 51-49 bourbons, and there's not a lot of difference," Barrett said. That's one reason the Empire Rye producers set a minimum of 80 percent rye.

"Rye is bourbon's spicier cousin," Barrett said. "It should be distinctive."

The standards for Empire Rye, Barrett said, "are narrow enough to ensure consistency but wide enough to allow for the distillers' expression."

The distilleries involved in the Empire Rye project include Black Button in Rochester; Finger Lakes in Burdett; Coppersea Distilling near New Paltz; Tuthilltown Distilling in Gardiner; Yankee Distillers in Clifton Park; and New York Distilling Co., Kings County Distillery and Van Brunt Stillhouse, all in Brooklyn.

The initial launch is coming this week for New York Rye Week, featuring events mostly in the New York City area.

The idea for Empire Rye came in 2015 during a craft-distilled spirits conference in Denver. Representatives from several of the distillers who started the Empire Rye Whiskey Association spent a late night drinking and kicking around ideas to give the New York spirits industry an identity.

"I can't say I remember much about that night, but that's where the concept was born," McKenzie said.

It took just a matter of weeks for some of the distillers to start putting rye in new oak barrels and get the process rolling. They kept relatively quiet about the project until now when the whiskey has reached its two-year minimum aging mark.

Quantities will be limited in this first year, but the participating distillers already have larger future batches in production.

At Black Button, which had not produced a rye whiskey before, the formula (called the "grain bill" by distillers) is 95 percent New York rye and 5 percent malted barley. That makes it a very rye-forward whiskey.

Black Button plans to launch its Empire Rye on Black Friday. The distillery produced only about 600 bottles. They will be available at the two Black Button tasting rooms -- at 85 Railroad St. in Rochester and 149 Swan St. in Buffalo -- and at a few select other accounts.

Finger Lakes Distilling, meanwhile, already has a successful rye, called McKenzie Rye (a sister product to its McKenzie Bourbon). It's 80 percent rye and 20 percent malted barley, all from New York state. Unlike the McKenzie Rye, it is aged in new oak and not finished in sherry casks.

There are just 200 or so bottles in the initial batch, and they will be available starting next week at the Finger Lakes Distilling tasting room, 4676 State Route 414, overlooking Seneca Lake's southeast shoreline.

"This program is still a work in progress," McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling said. "But it shows what's great about the craft spirits industry in New York. We can work together, and hopefully, build an identity around this product. We want people to say, "Hey that's Empire Rye. That's New York.' "
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Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2018 – The Winners

Posted by Ilya Dorfman on

It’s that time again: the day when Jim Murray reveals his favorite whiskeys in the world. The results of his Whisky Bible 2018 have just been announced last week, and the winner of the top prize hails from the USA (again):


Jim’s not a man to mince words, with his press release hailing the whiskey’s ‘sheer undiluted beauty’:

"Nothing could match the astonishing beauty of its surprisingly delicate weight and complexity combined. It was though time stood still in the tasting room; I just knew…"

The Colonel EH Taylor Four Grain is the latest in the Buffalo-Trace-made line of small-batch releases, drawing inspiration from Colonel Taylor’s time as a grain trader during the American Civil war. It’s made using a mash bill of corn, rye, wheat and malted barley – the four grains of the name – and has been picking up great reviews since it launched in April 2017.

Producer’s Tasting Notes:
"Opens with an inviting aroma, with the first sip bringing a lot of character. Caramel notes are touched by sweet vanilla and caramel corn, then underwritten by slightly smoky flavors and oak tannins. It maintains a smooth evenness between the four grains interacting with the charred oak barrel. Overall, nice balance, and unique."

Jim’s second and third favorite whiskeys are better known to followers of The Whisky Bible: Redbreast 21 and Glen Grant 18 (we are working on getting it). The Redbreast has been at the top of Jim’s Irish Whiskey awards since it arrived on the scene a few years back, and Glen Grant 18 was Jim’s second place whiskey last year.

Second Finest Whisky In The World – Redbreast 21 Year Old


Tasting notes:

With a minimum of 21-year-old spirit, the real range is up to 27-year-old whiskey, and the effect is staggering. Classic upfront sweetness, typical of an Irish dram, leads into loads of tropical fruits (dried mango), and dusty wood. Very deep, very elegant, and very drinkable, this beauty keeps you hanging on for more.

Third Finest Whisky In The World – Glen Grant 18-Year-Old

Producer’s Tasting Notes:

  • Nose: Rich and floral with oaky overtones and hints of baking spices
  • Palate: Malty caramel, delicate, dried raisins and vanilla
  • Finish: Long, sweet with hints of nuts and spice



  • Scotch Whisky of the Year - Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition
  • Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Casks) - Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition
  • Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask) - Cadenhead’s Glendullan 20 Year Old
  • Scotch Blend of the Year - Compass Box The Double Single
  • Scotch Grain of the Year - Cambus Aged 40 Years
  • Scotch Vatted Malt of the Year - Compass Box 3-Year-Old Deluxe


  • No Age Statement (Multiple Casks) - Ardbeg Corryvreckan
  • 10 Years & Under (Multiple Casks) - Glen Grant Aged 10 Years
  • 10 Years & Under (Single Cask) - Scotch Malt Whisky Society Tomatin Cask 11.32 8-Year-Old
  • 11-15 Years (Multiple Casks) - Gordon & MacPhail Ardmore 2002
  • 11-15 Years (Single Cask) - That Boutique-y Co. Clynelish 15-Year-Old
  • 16-21 Years (Multiple Casks) - Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition
  • 16-21 Years (Single Cask) - The First Editions Ardmore Aged 20 Years
  • 22-27 Years (Multiple Casks) - Sansibar Whisky Glen Moray 25 Years Old
  • 22-27 Years (Single Cask) - Hunter Laing’s Old & Rare Auchentoshan 24 Year Old
  • 28-34 Years (Multiple Casks) - Glen Castle Aged 28 Years
  • 28-34 Years (Single Cask) - Old Particular Glenturret 28 Year Old
  • 35-40 Years (Multiple Casks) - Brora Aged 38 Years
  • 35-40 Years (Single Cask) - Xtra Old Particular Caol Ila 36 Year Old
  • 41 Years & Over (Multiple Casks) - Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 1957


  • No Age Statement (Standard) - Ballantine’s Finest
  • No Age Statement (Premium) - Compass Box The Double Single
  • 5-12 Years - Grant’s Aged 12 Years
  • 13-18 Years - Ballantine’s Aged 17 Years
  • 19 – 25 Years - Royal Salute 21-Year-Old
  • 26 – 50 Years - The Antiquary Aged 35 Years


  • Irish Whiskey of the Year - Redbreast Aged 21 Years
  • Irish Pot Still Whiskey of the Year - Redbreast Aged 21 Years
  • Irish Single Malt of the Year - Bushmills 16-Year-Old
  • Irish Blend of the Year - Bushmills Black Bush
  • Irish Single Cask of the Year - Dunville’s VR First Edition Aged 15 Years







  • European Whisky of the Year (Multiple) - Penderyn Bryn Terfel (Wales)
  • European Whisky of the Year (Single) - The Norfolk Parched (England)


  • Asian Whisky of the Year - Paul John Kanya (India)
  • Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year - Limeburner’s Dark Winter (Australia)
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8 Whiskeys That Are Even Better Than Pappy Van Winkle, And Way Easier To Find

Posted by Ilya Dorfman on

In the immortal words of the late, great Aaliyah, “Age ain’t nothing but a number.” When it comes to whiskey, however, age is very important – the time a whiskey spends in a barrel contributes to up to 70 percent of its flavor, according to some experts.

It’s important to remember that old doesn’t always mean better when it comes to brown spirits. Still, age can be a good marketing tool, especially when it comes to the hyped Pappy Van Winkle line of bourbon. Every year, Pappy releases a range of aged bourbon (between 10 and 23 years old) in very limited quantities, and both whiskey aficionados and dilettantes promptly freak out.

Prices soar into the thousands of dollars, lines form at liquor stores the night before the bourbon goes on sale, and two-ounce pours can go for hundreds of dollars at bars.

The bottom line is that yes, Pappy Van Winkle is a very fine aged bourbon, but its high price makes it unobtainable to most people. Luckily, for those that like to drink mature whiskey, there are some other options out there which are much easier to get your hands on, frequently less expensive, and just plain better than Pappy. Here’s a list of other whiskeys to consider.

1. Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 23

This is the tenth release from Diageo’s Orphan Barrel line, and the fourth bearing the Rhetoric name. The whiskey was distilled at the Bernheim Distillery in the early ‘90s and has been aging at the Stitzel-Weller warehouses since then. At 23 years, this is the oldest Rhetoric release so far, although a 24 and 25-year-old will be released over the next two years.

Rhetoric 23 Bourbon | De Wine Spot
2. Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old

This bourbon first came out on Derby Day in 2015, and it was just recently re-released in honor of the 82 anniversary of Louisville’s Stitzel-Weller Distillery. The whiskey is the product of two unnamed distilleries, one in Louisville and the other in Frankfort, and was aged at Stitzel-Weller for at least part of its life.
Blade & Bow 22 | De Wine Spot
3. Michter’s 10 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Michter’s is now distilling its own juice, but for many years the brand has sourced its bourbon from other distilleries, with excellent results. The regular US1 range is good, but the 10 Year Bourbon is exceptional. It’s a single barrel release with a flavor that is much deeper and richer than the core expressions.
4. Hochstadter’s Family Reserve 16 Year Straight Rye

The Cooper Spirits Co. sources and bottles this 16-year-old 100 percent rye whiskey from Alberta Distilleries Limited in Canada. This release was limited to 7,500 bottles. It packs a bunch with a cask strength of 123.8 proof, so don’t be afraid to add a little water here - in fact, you definitely should do so. Then sit back and enjoy some fruity, spicy rye whiskey at full power.
5. Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition 50 Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon

This new release from Four Roses came out in June in honor of senior brand ambassador and Four Roses legend Al Young, who has been with the company for half a century. It’s made up of a blend of four of Four Roses’ ten unique whiskey recipes, clocking in at 12, 13, 15, and 23 years each. The bottle features a retro design that harkens back to 1967, the year Young first started working at the company.
6. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades

This is the second Master’s Keep release from Wild Turkey. The first was a 17-year-old bourbon, while the current bottle is a blend of 10-20-year-old whiskey personally selected by master distiller Eddie Russell. He’s celebrating his 35 years in the whiskey industry, so Decades is both a tribute to and special project for Russell.
7. Booker’s “Blue Knights Batch”

At only six years old, this is the youngest whiskey on this list, but Booker’s always impresses with its vibrant barrel-strength flavor and proof (this new release, due out in June, weighs in at an impressive 127.4). The new batch is named “Blue Knights” as a tribute to the motorcycle club comprised of active and retired police officers that the late Jim Beam master distiller Booker Noe forged a friendship with.
Booker's Blue Knights Batch | De Wine Spot
8. Knob Creek 25 Anniversary

Knob Creek, part of Jim Beam’s Small Batch collection, is celebrating its 25 anniversary this year with the release of this 12-13-year-old bourbon. It’s a bold statement –single barrel, unfiltered, and barrel strength at between 120 and 125 proof. Basically, this is regular Knob Creek on steroids and is available now.


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2017 Bourbon Release Calendar

Posted by William Whelan on

Dates listed are when distilleries begin to release a product to market. Individual states will vary. We are constantly working with distilleries to try to confirm the release dates.

Q1 2017 Q2 2017 Q3 2017 Q4 2017












  • Angel's Envy Bourbon Cask Strength
  • Barrell Bourbon 2018 New Year Bourbon Limited Edition
  • Barrell Bourbon Batch 014
  • Wigle Hopped Whiskey
  • Wigle's Landing
  • Wigle Straight Allegheny Wheat Whiskey
  • Woodford Master's Collection


  • Stranahan's Snowflake 2017
  • Wigle Rye Rysky 
  • Wigle Straight Pennsylvania Bourbon


  • 1792 Bottled in Bond
  • Basil Hayden's Dark Rye
  • Belle Meade Black Belle
  • Booker's Bourbon Roundtable
  • Catskill Straight Rye Whiskey
  • Collaboration Finished in Brandy Barrels
  • Collaboration Finished in Muscat Mistelle Barrels
  • Evan Williams Master Blend
  • Few Rye Whiskey Cask Strength
  • Few Single Malt
  • Forty Creek Heritage 2017 Limited Edition
  • Garrison Brothers Port Finish Texas Bourbon
  • Gentleman Jack Limited Edition
  • Hartfield & Co. American Whiskey
  • Heaven Hill "New" Bottled in Bond
  • Heaven Hill 80th Anniversary
  • Heaven Hill Select Stock Double Oaked
  • High West Blue Sky Ranch Rye
  • High West (Distilled) Malt Whiskey
  • High West (Distilled) Rye Whiskey
  • Hirsch 8 Year Bourbon
  • Hirsch 8 Year High Rye
  • Hochstadter's Family Reserve Rye 16 Year
  • Isaac Bowman Port Barrel Finished
  • Jack Daniel's Barrel Aged Rye
  • Jefferson's 20 Year
  • Jefferson's Journey
  • Jefferson's New Fill
  • Jefferson's Presidential Select 16 Year Old Twin Oak
  • Jefferson's Very Small Batch
  • Jim Beam Distiller's Cut
  • Koval Collaboration Series #2
  • Koval Collaboration Series #3
  • Lock Stock & Barrel 18 Year
  • Maker's Mark Breeder's Cup 2016 Edition: Zenyatta
  • Maker's Mark Breeder's Cup 2017 Edition: Cigar
  • Maker's Mark Cask Strength SB: The Final 3 Barrels
  • Maker's Mark Cask Strength SB: The First 3 Barrels
  • Maker's Mark Dale Chihuly Label
  • Medley Family Private Selection Barrel Proof
  • Michter's 25 Year Rye
  • Old Forester Whiskey Row: 1910: Old Fine Whiskey
  • Old Forester Whiskey Row: 1923
  • Peerless Bourbon Series 1
  • Redemption Bourbon 9 Year
  • Redemption Rye The Ancients: 18 Year
  • Redemption The Ancients: 36 Year
  • Seven Stills Sea Farmer
  • Smooth Ambler Old Scout American Whiskey
  • Templeton Rye Special Reserve
  • Truman Cox Commemorative Series: Emerson Cox Barrel
  • Truman Cox Commemorative Series: First Whiskey Barrel
  • Truman Cox Commemorative Series: Jayden Quinn Barrel
  • Tin Cup 10 Year
  • Wathen's Barrel Proof
  • WhistlePig Double Malt
  • Willett Wheat
  • Woodford Reserve Distillery Series: Ozark Oak
  • Woodford Reserve Five Malt
  • Buffalo Trace Single Estate Bourbon
  • Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project Winner
  • E.H. Taylor Four Grain (2018 Release)
  • Nelson Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey
  • Ray's Reserve Batch 2
  • Rhetoric 24 Year
  • Wild Turkey 101 Year Celebration
Unknown Dates
  • 8 Feathers Teff Whiskey Single Barrel
  • 9 Banded
  • Amazing Whiskey
  • Ancient Age 5 Star
  • Backroom Bourbon
  • Balcones Texas Bourbon Whiskey
  • Balcones Texas Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel
  • Balcones Texas 100% Rye Whiskey
  • Balcones Texas Single Malt Whiskey Classic Edition
  • Balcones 3 Grain Texas Whiskey
  • Belmont Farm Distillery Special Reserve 25
  • Black Button Four Grain Port Finished
  • Black Button Rohrbach All Malt Whiskey
  • Black Button Aged Rye
  • Bourbon 30
  • #Bromance Whiskey
  • Calumet Farm Single Rack Black 10 Year
  • Canadian Stag
  • CH Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Cleveland Rye Whiskey
  • Cleveland Underground
  • Crippled Crow Rye Whiskey
  • David Nicholson Rye
  • Discount Unicorn White Whiskey
  • [E] Whiskey
  • Elijah Craig 1789
  • Evan Williams 18 Year
  • Exquisite Whiskey
  • Fillmroe Sacramento Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Forbidden Bourbon
  • George Washington Single Malt Whiskey
  • Giants of the Earth Bourbon
  • Hell Year Bourbon Whiskey
  • Hirsch Reserve Selected 
  • Hog Fuel
  • Hookers House Epicenter Whiskey
  • Hoovers Revenge Rye 
  • Islay Rye
  • J. Becher Straight Rye Whiskey
  • J. Riddle Peated Bourbon 
  • Jefferson's Bordeaux Finish
  • Joseph Magnus Bourbon: Triple Cask Finish
  • Journeyman Distillery Last Feather Rye
  • Kelsey Creek Bourbon Whiskey
  • Kentucky Best Whiskey
  • Las Vegas Distillery Kamut
  • Lazy RW Frontier Straight Whiskey
  • Leadslingers Bourbon Whiskey
  • Linfield Rye Whiskey
  • New Holland Pub on 8th Bourbon Whiskey BIB
  • O.Z. Tyler Small Batch Rye
  • Old Grumpy Bastard Blended American Whiskey
  • Old Overholt Bonded
  • Remus Repeal Reserve 
  • Pendergast's Royal Gold Bourbon
  • Preacher's Pardon
  • Rye Smile
  • Smooth Ambler Stillhouse Collection: Recipe 2
  • St. George California Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Stray Rye Whiskey
  • Splinter Group Spirits Rye
  • Stitzel Bourbon
  • Stitzel barrel Aged American Whiskey
  • Storm Tossed Rye
  • Texas Gold Whiskey Hollow
  • This is Texas Hand Cut Whiskey
  • Tom Foolery Bonded Rye
  • Tom Foolery Single Barrel
  • Very Olde St. Nick Estate Reserve
  • Very Olde St. Nick Estate Reserve 8 Year
  • Very Olde St. Nick Barrel Proof Estate Reserve
  • Wayward Bourbon Whiskey
  • Wigle Whiskey Cognac Finish
  • Wild Turkey Master's Keep 1894
  • Wild Turkey Master's Keep: Revival 
  • Willett White Whiskey Rye
  • Willett White Whiskey Wheat
  • Willett XCF Version 2.0
  • Woodford Reserve Legacy Barrel
  • Woodford Reserve Malt
  • Angel's Envy Rye Cask Strength
  • Buffalo Trace Peated Bourbon 
  • E.H. Taylor "O.F.C." New Recipe: White Corn
  • Maker's Mark 46 Cask Strength
  • Michter's 30 Year Straight Bourbon
  • Strongbox - Orphan Barrel

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        Varieties of Blanton's Releases

        Posted by Ilya Dorfman on

        Blanton's is a brand owned by Age International Inc. In 1991, Takara Shuzo Co., Ltd. acquired a stake in Age International and later gained complete control of the company. Takara Shuzo is a Japanese company that makes all sorts of beverages, including sake, bourbon, and scotch, and has subsidiaries around the world.

        Even though the brand is owned by Age International, Buffalo Trace Distillery actually produces Blanton's and distributes it in the United States. All Blanton's comes from Warehouse "H," a metal warehouse that Colonel Blanton thought produced the best bourbon.

        In addition to Blanton's, Buffalo Trace produces several other bourbons for Age International using its lower-corn Mash Bill #2. These brands include Ancient Age, Elmer T. Lee, Hancock's Reserve and Rock Hill Farm.

        Blanton's markets itself as the first single barrel whiskey. In the United States, only Blanton's Original Single Barrel is widely available. In Japan, and much of the rest of the world, however, five or six varieties of Blanton's are available:

         Name Label Color Proof Notes
        Original Single Barrel Brown 93 Standard U.S. Release
        Special Reserve Green 80 For markets that tax alcohol based on proof
        Black Edition Black 80 Japan Only
        Silver Edition Silver 98 Discontinued Duty-Free Bottling
        Gold Edition Gold 103 No actual label. The text that normally appears on the label is etched onto the glass in gold.
        Straight From The Barrel Edition Brown 130 Uncut and Unfiltered

        There is no barrel selection for Blanton's. That is, certain barrels from Warehouse H are selected as fitting the Blanton's profile and are simply bottled at different proofs to create the various expressions. The only difference between Blanton's Gold Edition and the Original Single Barrel is the amount of Kentucky limestone water added before bottling. Because this is a single barrel bourbon, however, there will difference between bottles. 

        In addition to the above bottlings, there are various limited edition bottlings of Blanton's for La Maison du Whisky, a specialty liquor store in Paris. These are store picks of Blanton's, but each edition has a special label that departs dramatically from the standard Blanton's monochrome labels.

        Moreover, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Blanton's Single Barrel, there is also a 30th-anniversary release (only for the Japanese market).

        Warehouse H at Buffalo Trace Distillery | De Wine Spot

        If you are lucky enough to try a few of these, which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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